William's way: Prince takes charge of smoothing Kate's path to royal duty

23 FEBRUARY 2011

When Prince William and Kate Middleton faced the world for the first time as future man and wife, there was one particularly frank comment that caught the attention of the assembled press.

The 28-year-old said that his desire "to learn some lessons from the past" was one of the main reasons why he had waited seven years before proposing.

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He wanted to give Kate a chance to see what life would be like in royal family "and then to back out if she needed to before it all got too much".

For his mother, Princess Diana, going from a 19-year-old nursery school teacher to a high-profile royal was quite overwhelming. She was unprepared for the huge change and had very little idea of what she was actually letting herself in for.

But thanks to William, the same can not be said of Kate. 

The 29-year-old has gradually been introduced to royal life over the course of their courtship, and she didn't exercise the option to "back out".

Undoubtedly, she has a very good idea of the life that lies ahead of her. Even so, William continues to guide his fiancée, with a gentle hand, into the new role that awaits.

The couple's forthcoming public engagements – when her work as a member as the royal family begins in earnest – is a prime example.

The Prince has chosen familiar ground for his future wife to make her debut, clearly with the intention of making the experience less nerve-wracking for her.

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On Thursday they are attending the naming ceremony of a lifeboat in Trearddur Bay, Angelsey (bottom picture), where they are both currently based while William completes his RAF Search and Rescue pilot training. And it is here they will begin their married life.

The next day the couple are sure to see some familiar faces when they return to St Andrews University, where they fell in love, for its 600th anniversary.

There, they'll unveil a plaque after meeting students and staff.

Kate will, no doubt, find herself the centre of attention, amid scenes reminiscent of the throngs of crowds that turned up on their graduation day (below). But though it's a daunting prospect William will be beside her, supporting her every step of the way.

And it will be the same when they make their first official trip abroad together to Canada, as the country's future king and queen, following their honeymoon.

It's no accident William has chosen a nation that is so close to his heart, where Kate is sure of a warm welcome.

Undoubtedly, the second-in-line has been advising his beloved on how to handle the press from day one. Indeed, in their first interview together Kate did admit that the prospect of joining the royal family was "a little daunting" and "obviously nerve-wrecking".

But she was clearly keen to learn from William, whom she described as "a great teacher". She added: "I don't know the ropes, William is obviously used to it, but I'm willing to learn quickly and work hard.


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"I really hope I can make a difference, even in the smallest way. I am looking forward to helping as much as I can."

The man who conducted that interview, Tom Bradbury noted how calm and collected Kate seemed. But William had done everything in his power to keep in control of the situation.

He personally requested ITN's political editor Tom, whom he'd known for over a decade, to ensure the interview went smoothly.

And the Prince wasn't disappointed. Kate came across as poised and natural, and Tom – a guest at the couple's wedding – afterwards explained that he had done everything he could to make sure the newly engaged pair were relaxed enough to be themselves.

Will was still the one in control, however. "As we neared the end, William made a joke about being 'relieved when this interview is over', which I know him well enough to take as code for: 'She’s nearly done enough, Tom.' And not long afterwards, I stopped and said thank you."

Tom said he was impressed by Kate, who, despite her calm exterior, found the interview stressful.

"(She) let out a huge sigh of relief, leant her head back and groaned: 'I’m no good at this'," he remembers, thinking back to what happened when the cameras stopped rolling.

"But she is and was and, I suspect, will be. She's not a showy woman, Kate. She doesn't like the limelight and won't much care for the fame."

Indeed, Kate has long been level-headed when it comes with dealing with the press.

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Now, she has a team of security officers and press people who will help smooth her transition into her new role. But back when she was just William's girlfriend, she was on her own.

Even then she managed to cope with the intense interest, says her former employer, Belle Robinson - owner of Jigsaw.

"There were days when there were TV crews at the end of the drive," she says. "We'd say: 'Listen, do you want to go out the back way?' And she'd say: 'To be honest, they're going to hound us until they've got the picture. So why don't I just go, get the picture done, and then they'll leave us alone."

"I thought she was very mature… and I think she's been quite good at neither courting the press nor sticking two fingers in the air at them. I don't think I would have been so polite."

Those who know Kate have commented on how grounded she is, which will stand her in good stead. Belle noted her easy manner with people from all levels of the company.

"She sat in the kitchen at lunchtime and chatted with everyone from the van drivers to the accounts girls. She wasn't precious," she says.

It seems that William needn't worry about the "mistakes of the past" being repeated. Kate is moving forward with her eyes open and with her Prince guiding her every step of the way.

And her strength of character will only serve to make his work easier.

As their friend Tom notes: "As I said at the start, she showed that she has some serious bottle and is not to be trifled with."

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